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It’s never too late to chase your dreams says Swati De, a theatre artist who first faced the arc lights at forty.
Interview by Nishi Roy
Swati exemplifies that age is but just a number when it comes to realizing dreams. A few years ago she was a homemaker based out of Bangalore. Today she performs under stage stalwarts like Jagdish Raja, Arundhuti Raja and Meghnad Bhattacharya across the country. She talks to us about the reasons behind her decision to take up theatre so late in life, the journey so far and about having a life beyond traditional boundaries.
Nishi Roy (NR): Who is Swati De?
Swati De (SD): I am a regular woman. The words witty, acute, agile and undergoing negotiations with age, is what describe me to perfection.
I have gathered something from the ever-widening realms of experience: If you can face being defeated but have the guts to rise again, you shall survive and mind you, not just survive, but survive well; survive proud.
NR: How did it all begin?
SD: It all began with a humble audition for a culturally vibrant Bengali group, who were inaugurating the Bangalore Chapter of a San Francisco based Bengali theatre group called ENAD. It was extremely well received. I came out enriched, first by the experience and then by the fabulous relation I forged with my co-actor. I am indebted to him for having the faith in me and standing by me despite all odds.
NR: How has the journey been so far?
SD: Facing the stage lights at forty – it was quite an experience, since the last I had acted was during my school days, after which I got married into a conservative family.
Don’t we aspire doing this at least once in our life – to be the heroine in a play? I was, finally in my first stage appearance. It was a romantic-comedy, a Bengali play, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of being Ernest’- ‘Aleek Aleakhya’.
It was soon followed by another Bengali play, an adaptation of Schedrin’s story. It was a very well done production of an established Bengali theatre group called SAYAK of Kolkata with Meghnad Bhattacharya, an eminent Bengali theatre personality. It was an exhilarating experience as this production got a lot of critical acclaim from theatre critics and viewers. We were featured in numerous magazines and papers. I realized the beauty of this enigmatic art called acting. We were invited to participate in theatre festivals in Kolkata.
My English play, ‘The Dreams of Tipu Sultan’, written by Girish Karnad, and directed by Arundhuti Raja, had approximately 20 successful shows in Bangalore.
My most cherished role remains being the lead in Director Sayandeb Bhattacharya’s Bengali play ‘Simontini’ based on Maughm’s story.
NR: So when did you realize that this is what you wanted?
SD: Acting under the spotlights of Kolkata theatre was an ethereal experience for me. Girish Mancha, Minerva Theatre – where the thespians of Bengali Theatre have performed; to share the same stage, left me flabbergasted. The warmth of the people and the applause overwhelmed me completely.
It was perhaps then when I knew that I was meant for the stage. It was as one says, the “aha” moment for me. I was truly hooked and booked to the craft of acting. Albeit, a little late in life for some, but I was glad to have found my place.
NR: With a husband who has been on the move, anchoring and nurturing two young kids and also following up with one’s passion would not have been easy. How have you managed to keep the passion alive?
SD: Obviously nothing comes easy in life. These years saw my son giving his boards, my husband’s sudden decision to move to Mumbai for a better career opportunity, my father falling terminally ill, getting worse and ultimately bidding goodbye to life – and all this while, I held on to my passion.
I delivered all my responsibilities, but I kept reminding myself – I had a life: a life beyond the burdening reality – a dream, bigger than a dream. For those few hours I lived somebody else’s life, felt her strength, her weakness, her problems, and still survived. My reel characters, I feel, strengthened my real character. Somewhere, I stopped weeping and feeling sorry for myself.
I allowed others to come closer to me, touch my life, enrich me through their experiences and I grew as a person. Seeing me, my little daughter has turned out to be a responsible, dependable and self-sufficient girl.
NR: Any one in particular who has inspired you to be where you are today?
SD: I have inspired myself. Realization dawned on me when I turned the magical age of 40; things became crystal clear. I had to think about myself, I had to take care of myself. The ever ignored ‘ME’ emerged in front of my eyes and I had to befriend her, look after her.
I realized, behind all the layers of responsibilities, errands and chores, playing the role of a daughter, a wife and a mother, respectively, the girl me, still survives.
I have this immense desire to learn the little nuances of acting, to learn to be a better mom, a better friend, a better human, a better opponent too.
NR: What next?
SD: Theatre festival in Kochi with my English play. More shows of the same play. And post that, maybe the national stage next, or even the silver screen! Who knows? I am not complaining! Que Sera Sera!
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